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13.4: Personality Development

  • Page ID
    12260
  • Jung believed that “everyone’s ultimate aim and strongest desire lie in developing the fullness of human existence that is called personality” (Jung, 1940). However, he lamented the misguided attempts of society to educate children into their personalities. Not only did he doubt the abilities the average parent or average teacher to lead children through the child’s personality development, given their own personal limitations, he considered it a mistake to expect children to act like young adults:

    It is best not to apply to children the high ideal of education to personality. For what is generally understood by personality - namely, a definitely shaped, psychic abundance, capable of resistance and endowed with energy - is an adult ideal…No personality is manifested without definiteness, fullness, and maturity. These three characteristics do not, and should not, fit the child, for they would rob it of its childhood. (pp. 284-285; Jung, 1940)

    This is not to suggest that childhood is simply a carefree time for children:

    No one will deny or even underestimate the importance of childhood years; the severe injuries, often lasting through life, caused by a nonsensical upbringing at home and in school are too obvious, and the need for reasonable pedagogic methods is too urgent…But who rears children to personality? In the first and most important place we have the ordinary, incompetent parents who are often themselves, all their lives, partly or wholly children. (pg. 282; Jung, 1940)

    So, if childhood is a critical time, but most adults never grow up themselves, what hope does Jung see for the future? The answer is to be found in midlife. According to Jung, the middle years of life are “a time of supreme psychological importance” and “the moment of greatest unfolding” in one’s life (cited in Jacobi & Hull, 1970). In keeping with the ancient tradition of the Vedic stages of life, from Hindu and Indian culture, the earlier stages of life are about education, developing a career, having a family, and serving one’s proper role within society:

    Man has two aims: The first is the aim of nature, the begetting of children and all the business of protecting the brood; to this period belongs the gaining of money and social position. When this aim is satisfied, there begins another phase, namely, that of culture. For the attainment of the former goal we have the help of nature, and moreover of education; but little or nothing helps us toward the latter goal... (pg. 125; Jung, cited in Jacobi & Hull, 1970)

    So where does one look for the answers to life? Obviously, there is no simple answer to that question, or rather, than are many answers to that question. Some pursue spiritual answers, such as meditating or devoting themselves to charitable causes. Some devote themselves to their children and grandchildren, others to gardening, painting, or woodworking. The answer for any particular individual is based on that person’s individuation.

    Individuation is the process by which a person actually becomes an “individual,” differentiated from all other people. It is not to be confused with the ego, or with the conscious psyche, since it includes aspects of the personal unconscious, as influenced by the collective unconscious. Jung also described individuation as the process by which one becomes a “whole” person. To some extent, this process draws the individual away from society, toward being just that, an individual. However, keeping in mind the collective unconscious, Jung believed that individuation leads to more intense and broader collective relationships, rather than leading to isolation. This is what is meant by a whole person, one who successfully integrates the conscious psyche, or ego, with the unconscious psyche. Jung also addresses the Eastern approaches, such as meditation, as being misguided in their attempts to master the unconscious mind. The goal of individuation is wholeness, wholeness of ego, unconscious psyche, and community (Jung, 1940, 1971):

    Consciousness and the unconscious do not make a whole when either is suppressed or damaged by the other. If they must contend, let it be a fair fight with equal right on both sides. Both are aspects of life…It is the old play of hammer and anvil: the suffering iron between them will in the end be shaped into an unbreakable whole, the individual. (pg. 27; Jung, 1940)

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    Jimmy Carter was a successful farmer, Governor of Georgia, and President of the United States. As president he brokered a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Despite such an illustrious life to that point, he has, perhaps, done even more good since then. After devoting himself to a wide variety of social and political activities focusing on peace and justice, including personally building houses with Habitat for Humanity, the Honorable Mr. Carter received a well-earned Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

    discussion question \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Jung identified the first half of life as a time to take care of the biological needs of the species (e.g., raising children). It is in the second half of life, according to Jung, that one looks within oneself for the guidance and motivation to fulfill the needs of society and one’s culture.